The History Of The Most Unique Country Sports Event

The ecosystem of country sports photography includes a wide variety of events, from game shooting and hunting parties to more structured target shooting events, which themselves range in competition from local club competitions to the Olympic Games.

However, even amongst the many target shooting contests seen every four years at the Olympics, a result of the particular interests of the IOC’s founder, Pierre De Coubertin, there is one particular event that takes place that is as unique as its history: biathlon.

A consistent part of the Winter Olympics since 1960, the biathlon is a mix of cross-country skiing on relatively flat terrain and rifle target shooting, where the biathletes will carry a rifle with them alongside their skiing poles.

It is a unique combination of events that rival show jumping and the steeplechase in terms of spectacle, but this bizarre grouping makes far more sense when you consider that the biathlon was invented in Scandinavia.

Both Norway and Sweden have skiing units of their military forces who train themselves to not only traverse harsh and snowy terrain whilst on skis and carrying rifles and other equipment, but also be able to shoot whilst on them, either whilst moving or at moving targets.

In fact, one of the very first ski clubs in existence, based in the Norwegian municipality of Trysil in 1861, was set up primarily as a rifle club to encourage people at a local level to build up their shooting skills.

Both Sweden and Norway competed in biathlon from the very start, albeit with different rules, distances and mechanisms for how the shooting section could be judged, and would by the dawn of the 20th century become a civilian as well as a military event.

Its first appearance in a Winter Olympics, however, would wait until 1924, when it was known as “military patrol” and only officially competed for once (albeit with demonstrations in 1928, 1936 and 1948).

Eventually, in 1955, it would become accepted as an Olympic event and would run for the first time as such in 1960.